It’s not unusual for studios to occasionally rerelease big movies, particularly around the holidays or at other key moments where there’s the potential to reach new audiences or ask old ones to come out to revisit a movie they enjoyed the first time around. What *is* unusual for a movie to get a whole new version that eliminates one of its key selling points from its initial release.
That’s just what Fox is doing with Deadpool 2, now rebranded as Once Upon A Deadpool and hitting theaters today in a new, slightly scrubbed version that sports a more welcoming PG-13 rating. It’s a risky move given that the primary value proposition behind the Deadpool franchise has been that the character is unapologetically vulgar and violent. To help counter whatever concerns might be out there Fox has mounted a mini-campaign that is just as meta and playful as audiences have come to expect from the character.
The first poster was appropriately insane, showing Deadpool sitting behind Fred Savage, the latter wearing the same Chicago Bears jersey he did in The Princess Bride, on a red-nosed reindeer, the latter helping to convey the movie’s release timing to the audience. Oh, and the framing of the poster is just what’s seen on the one-sheet for The Princess Bride, just to help reinforce that point.
The second, released just a week or so prior to the movie hitting theaters, hits the “second coming” theme by showing Deadpool at the front of a choir of angelic beings that includes Savage and a host of band members heralding his arrival with trumpets and more. That image wound up being the subject of a backlash from the Church of Latter Day Saints since it recreates a famous painting associated with that group.
In the middle of November, just about a month out from release, a trailer (22.4 million views on YouTube) wsa put out featuring Deadpool talking with Fred Savage, who’s laying in bed in a Bears jersey just like he was in The Princess Bride. Only we have a bit of a Misery situation here, with Savage being tied down to that bed. We get a bit of footage from the movie, including some new stuff, before we’re back to Savage taking a shot at Deadpool’s status as a non-MCU Marvel movie.
Advertising and Publicity
A TV spot released at the end of November took roughly the same approach as the trailer while another a couple weeks later had Deadpool answering questions from Savage about himself and the movie that echoed much of what the audience had been wondering since this release was announced.
At about the time the actual marketing of the movie started, Reynolds explained how a big part of the reason he finally agreed to a PG-13 cut of the movie was an agreement to have a portion of the proceeds go to a cancer charity. He also offered some details on the single day of additional shooting that was done to add the Fred Savage framing scenes.
The charitable angle was the focus of a video released by Reynolds that had Deadpool and Savage having an initially heated discussion about Nickelback. Another clip showing the two of them revolved around how Deadpool is bleeping out his own cursing in an effort to avoid that R rating with this version of the movie.
On the day the movie hit theaters Fox released a promo featuring “poorly paid actors” hired by the studio – a disclosure that appears at the bottom of the screen – touting the fact that there’s finally a version of Deadpool that the whole family can enjoy.
Outside of that, the movie generated lots of speculation and discussion around *why* Fox was making this move right now. Plenty of essays and op-eds were written about how it’s meant to fill a hole in the studio’s end-of-year release schedule, or that it’s a trial balloon floated by the studio to show its new Disney owners it could play nice with the character and make him more amenable to a potential crossover with other characters.
Whatever Fox’s rationale or reasoning, it mounted a fun and appropriately self-effacing marketing push in a very limited time window. That campaign has not only worked to get people once more talking about Deadpool but also, in some way, set expectations in a way that if it turns out to be a complete disaster it’s kind of already acknowledged that could be a possibility.
If anything, the campaign itself adds to the character’s brand perception instead of detracting from it, which surely was a real concern. That will surely help in the long run, no matter what the future of the Merc With a Mouth is under his new corporate management.